West Hudson – Regional Trails Council August 9, 2016

West Hudson Regional Trails Council
Tue, 08/09/2016 (All day)

West Hudson – Regional Trails Council Agenda

6:30 – 8:30 pm, August 9, 2016

Mahwah, NJ


6:00           Networking


6:30           Open remarks and welcome:

  • Approval of minutes
  • Introduce Todd Jennings – new LTC chair for the Southern Shawangunks Region LTC
  • Crew AED status, sawyer notification list, annual awards and award meeting – John Leigh
  • AMC teen-week-long projects needed in  Harriman for 2017
  • Manufactured blazes/blazing committee
  • Risk Management Task Force – Bob Fuller


6:50         Brief summary of 1H16 accomplishments for each region – LTC Chairs and Crew Chiefs


7:00         Trail Approval Process – discussion

                Trail Approval – Sterling Forest Redback Multi-use trail - John

                Trail Review – Sterling Forest Eagle Mountain/Redback Loop -Sona/Erik

                Trail Approval - Connector trails between Black Rock Forest and Hudson Highlands Museum - Patty

                Trail Approval - Scenic Trail and Awosting Reserve Link - Patty/Dave


7:25         Summary of policy council to date, Trail Design Standards – John Mack


7:45          Discussion of funding sources, grants, etc.

                 Budget input – moderated by Sona


8:25         Planning for Wednesday, October 5 meeting (all 2016 meetings are currently scheduled to be held at the Darlington Schoolhouse but alternate locations will be considered).


8:30           Adjourn



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June 15, 2016


          1.  Chair Bob Fuller called the meeting to order at 6:32 p.m. at the Trail Conference office in Mahwah, N.J.  Present were Ed Goodell - Executive Director; Sona Mason - West Hudson Program Coordinator; John Leigh - Volunteer Coordinator; Daniel D. Chazin, Marty Costello, Jakob Franke, Bob Fuller, Erik Garnjost, Richard Jobsky, Barbara Kohlberger, Peter Kohlberger, Mark Liss, John Mack, Jonathan Martin, Michael Fuhrman, Glenn Oleksak, Patty Lee Parmalee and Hope Rogers.  He thanked everyone who helped arrange this meeting and asked everyone to introduce themselves.


          2.  Minutes.  The minutes of the April 12th meeting were approved as submitted.


          3.  Chainsaw Park Notification Process.  John Leigh reported that he had sent out to all members of the Regional Trails Council an e-mail with the designated chainsaw contacts for parks under the jurisdiction of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and he noted that this list has been posted on the Trail Conference website.  He pointed out that, in each case, before going on a chainsawing trip, an e-mail must be sent to the designated park contact giving the plans for the trip, with a copy sent to John Leigh.  Barbara Kohlberger stated that she was willing to serve as the temporary e-mail contact for Sterling Forest State Park (which was the only remaining OPRHP park without a contact).  John Leigh agreed to update the contact list and redistribute it.


          4.  Trail Crew AEDs.  John Leigh reported that the Trail Conference has received a grant to purchase AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) for trail crews.  Ed Goodell explained that AEDs are used to revive people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest.  John Leigh noted that the units have already been purchased, but that training is required for their use, and that the units can be distributed only to those crews with at least two members who have taken the required training.  He also stated that training will be made available to those crews who do not yet have the required number of trained members. 


          Bob Fuller pointed out that the training was offered to all members of the West Hudson Regional Trails Council in March, but that only 15 people attended, although 25 spots were available.  He encouraged all members of the Regional Trails Council to take advantage of these training opportunities when offered.


          5.  Publications Report.  John Mack distributed to the members of the Regional Trails Council a report on the status of Trail Conference publications that had been prepared by Jeremy Apgar.  He noted that copies of the new edition of the Shawangunk Trails map set were received from the printer on June 8th, and that it features improved contour lines, a new map covering the Shawangunk Ridge between Wurtsboro and Route 52, and new inset maps of the Lake Minnewaska area and the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center area.  He also pointed out that the “freebie” online Shawangunk Ridge Trail map set has been updated and is available for free download on our website.


          John Mack also announced that the new editions of our Kittatinny Trails and Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails map sets are scheduled to be sent to the printer by the end of June and should be available in late July.  He showed to the committee a copy of the current draft of the revised Harriman-Bear Mountain maps, and he asked everyone to bring to his attention any further corrections that need to be made.  Jakob Franke and Bob Fuller requested that they be provided with review copies of the draft Harriman-Bear Mountain maps.  


          John Mack stated that the new edition of our Sterling Forest map is scheduled sent to the printer in August or September.  He also noted that Don Weise’s Circuit Hikes in Harriman book, which was published in June 2015, continues to be a strong seller, and he stated that a revised edition of the book should be published in late 2016 or early 2017.  John Mack pointed out that the Publications Committee has begun preliminary work on an updated Vistas and Vision book (commissioned to commemorate the Trail Conference’s 75th anniversary in 1995) for our 100th anniversary in 2020.


          John Mack noted that downloads of the Trail Conference’s Avenza “app” maps have exceeded 90,000, with the Bear Mountain “freebie” map being the #1 download in the entire Avenza map store (with more than 10,000 downloads).  Finally, he pointed out that Jeremy Apgar intends to provide training to volunteers on how to use the Avenza “app” maps in the field.


          6.  Trail Supervisor Description.  Bob Fuller noted that he had previously sent to members of the Regional Trails Council copies of the description of the position of Trail Supervisor, and he asked everyone to provide him with their comments.  There was a general consensus that the estimated time of 10 hours a month, set forth in the description, is not realistic, and that 15-20 hours a month is more realistic.  Both Daniel Chazin and Ed Goodell commented that, in their view, a time commitment should not be included in this document.  Ed Goodell then stated that the document circulated was not the correct version of the description and was probably taken from the website, which is currently being redone.  He stated that he would provide Sona Mason with a copy of the correct version of this document and that she could recirculate it to the committee.


          7.  Crossing of Metro-North Tracks at Schunemunk Mountain.  Sona Mason reported that there are two trail crossings of the Metro-North railroad tracks in Schunemunk Mountain State Park, as well as two locations where the trails run very close to the railroad.  She stated that the MTA would like us to eliminate these grade crossings and originally proposed that they be closed down completely.  She pointed out that the MTA installed fencing in several locations, primarily to prevent ATV’s from accessing the railroad tracks, and that one of these fences blocked a trail crossing (although it is easily possible to walk around it).  She noted that there are culverts under the tracks adjacent to the two crossings, and that the MTA subsequently advised us that it might be possible to route the trails through these culverts.  Sona Mason further stated that representatives of the MTA are having a meeting with their environmental people on Friday and will then let us know whether they have any resolution of the matter.


          Bob Fuller noted that the Long Distance Trails Crew and the Nor’Westers Trail Crew had planned to do work in August on routing the trails through these culverts, but Ed Goodell commented that it may take a long time to get permission to do the work, and no plans should be made at this time.  Patty Lee Parmalee questioned whether the culverts would ice up in the winter.  Daniel Chazin noted that many issues need to be resolved regarding the possible reroute of the trails through the culverts, and he commented that the ideal solution would be to attach a steel walkway to the sides of the culvert.  He stated, however, that he doubted that the railroad would allow this to be done.  It was therefore agreed that the planned work by the two trail crews would be postponed indefinitely.


          8.  Recent Land Acquisitions.  Sona Mason noted that the Orange County Land Trust has acquired an 11-acre parcel adjacent to the Appalachian Trail in the area of Sterling Forest State Park, with the Trail Conference contributing $50,000 to the purchase price.  She also noted that the Trail Conference has signed an agreement to purchase an 8.7-acre parcel in Wurtsboro, N.Y. that would permit a reroute of the Long Path to eliminate a roadwalk.


          9.  AMC Crews in Harriman State Park.  Bob Fuller noted that he had sent out, prior to the meeting, a message regarding the AMC youth work crews that will be operating out of their new camp on Breakneck Pond in Harriman State Park.  He pointed out that the AMC has asked the Trail Conference to recommend potential work projects for these crews, and he requested members of the Regional Trails Council to send a message, listing any possible projects that they would like to see done, to Josh Howard, with copies to Bob Fuller and Sona Mason, by August 15th.



          Jonathan Martin explained that the crews will consist of two crew leaders and up to nine youth members.  He noted that they will have a van at their disposal and that any projects could be considered if they are within a reasonable distance of the camp, even if they are outside Harriman State Park.  Jonathan Martin noted that, due to stringent legal requirements, it was not practical for other volunteers to work along with these youth on these projects.  Bob Fuller pointed out that the assignments could include rehabilitation of trails as well as preparatory work for major projects to be done by others.


          10.  Fire at Sam’s Point.  Bob Fuller noted that there had been a fire in April at the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve which burned over 2,000 acres.  He pointed out that, as a consequence, the entire Minnewaska State Park Preserve was closed for about a week and all of the Sam’s Point Area was closed until Memorial Day weekend.  He further noted that although the Ice Caves and the trails leading to them have reopened, all other trails in the Sam’s Point Area remain closed indefinitely because the Park is concerned that hikers might introduce invasive species into the burned-out area.


          Bob Fuller also pointed out that, to stop the fire from spreading, the Park bulldozed several firebreaks, including a three-mile-long firebreak near Ellenville.  He noted that, after the fire was extinguished, the Park made an urgent request for assistance in mitigating the damage that had resulted from these firebreaks.  Bob Fuller pointed out that both the Long Distance Trails Crew and the Nor’Westers Trail Crew assisted in this effort, making two trips to remove berms, dig drainage ditches and construct over 40 waterbars.  He thanked all those who participated and noted that the Park is very grateful for our efforts.  In response to a question by Patty Lee Parmalee, Bob Fuller stated that the Park will not be maintaining the firebreaks as roads and wants the firebreaks to grow back as naturally as possible.


          11.  Long Path Side Trails.  Bob Fuller explained that the various side trails to the Long Path in Rockland and eastern Orange Counties have now been taken over by the respective local trails committees, but that no local trails committee currently exists that could assume responsibility for the side trails to the Long Path west and north of this area.  He noted that he and Jakob Franke had proposed the creation of a new local trails committee that would assume responsibility for the side trails to the Long Path in western Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.  It was pointed out that Todd Jennings, a trail runner, has agreed to serve as chair of this committee (subject to approval).


          Bob Fuller explained that the new local trails committee would assume responsibility for the Shawangunk Ridge Trail both north and south of the area where it is coaligned with the Long Path, all side trails to the Long Path in this area, all trails in the Huckleberry Ridge State Forest area, and all trails in the Neversink Gorge area.  Ed Goodell pointed out that if the Trail Conference adopts additional trails in this area, they would also come under the jurisdiction of this new local trails committee.


          The creation of this new local trails committee (which has yet to be named) was unanimously approved by the West Hudson Regional Trails Council.


          12.  Mountain Biking in Blauvelt State Park.  Jakob Franke reported that a small group of mountain bikers has proposed an expansion of the areas within the parks administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission where mountain bikes are permitted.  He noted that this group initially presented a proposal to allow bikes on the ski trails in the area of State Line Lookout in the New Jersey Section of the Palisades Interstate Park, but that the staff of the New Jersey Section was not in favor of this proposal, and their request was not granted.  However, he stated, the mountain bikers have been given permission to construct a network of bike trails in Blauvelt State Park in New York, which is underutilized and has relatively few maintained hiking trails.  He noted that the mountain bike trails in this park will be briefly coaligned with sections of the Long Path and will also cross the Long Path in several locations.  Jakob Franke stated that there will be signs warning bikers to stay off the hiking trails, and that this will be an experiment to see whether the bikers will remain on their own trails.


          Jakob Franke also noted that a Friends group, consisting mostly of neighbors, recently learned about the establishment of these mountain bike trails and is very upset.  He stated that it would have been better had the Park held public hearings before permitting these trails to be constructed.


          In response to a question by Bob Fuller, Jakob Franke stated that since the mountain bike groups constructed these trails, he expects that they will also maintain them.  Ed Goodell stated that he personally believes that it would be best if the Trail Conference represented both hikers and bikers.


          It was noted that the above is for information only and that no action need be taken at this time on this matter by the West Hudson Regional Trails Council.



          13.  Policy Council Update.  John Mack stated that the Policy Council is considering a number of policies, including trail standards, trail approvals, trail management guide, trail management policy, land manager relations policy, risk management and first aid policy for trail crew leaders and chiefs, and trail use policy (which deals with the multi-use issue).  He stated that the committee hopes to have all these draft policies ready for consideration at its July meeting, and he noted that a number of these policies overlap.  Bob Fuller pointed out that a question has arisen regarding the approval process required for trails constructed by the Trail Conference under contract, rather than by volunteers.


          14.  Recruiting Volunteers.  John Leign noted that only one of the 22 Trail Chair Regions has a succession plan.  He stated that the Trail Conference’s trail maintainer vacancy rate averages about 10-13%, but that the vacancy rate is higher in the Catskills and approaches zero in some areas of North Jersey.  He also stated that, on the average, new volunteer maintainers resign after 18 months.  Bob Fuller pointed out that the length of service of trail maintainers can be characterized as a “bimodal distribution” –- i.e., they either serve for a short period of time or remain for many years. 


          John Leigh stated that volunteers recruited by other volunteers are likely to remain for a longer period of time.  He also stated that only 30% of the people who have expressed interest in volunteering even bother to return his phone calls, and that of those, only about 10% end up volunteering (so that only about 3% of those who have expressed interest in volunteering actually do so).  He noted that all those expressing an interest in volunteering are screened by the Volunteer Coordinator, following which their names are sent to both Trails Chairs and Supervisors.  Bob Fuller suggested that the Trail Crew Chiefs also be contacted with the names of potential volunteers, but John Leigh stated that those who have expressed interest in volunteering are screened to determine their specific interests, and only the names of those who have expressed a specific interest in trail crew work are sent to the Trail Crew Chiefs.


          John Leigh reviewed various best practices for recruiting.  He also stated that it is best if we can retain our current volunteers by recognizing them and holding events such as barbeques, potlucks and other suitable kinds of recognition.  Finally, he commented that millennial volunteers generally want to volunteer in a group, while people from the “baby boomer” generation often prefer to work alone.


          John Leigh stated that the most effective method of getting people to volunteer is to recruit them through another volunteer.  He also mentioned that the Trail University program is another useful recruiting tool.  Bob Fuller stated that the Long Distance Trails Crew has never obtained new volunteers from Trail University training classes, but that he has found that the people that the crew meets while doing work on the trail are often interested in joining his crew.  He stated that this has become the most valuable method his crew has found for recruiting volunteers.  He also stated that it is most effective for him personally to contact people who have expressed an interest in volunteering.  John Mack commented that he has had some success with recruiting maintainers through Trail University.

          Bob Fuller stated that the current budget includes funding for the creation of “rack cards” for all crews, but that these cards have not yet been printed because Josh Howard is working on formatting issues.  Sona Mason commented that the rack cards created for the Taconic Trail Crew have not been successful in recruiting volunteers, and have in fact resulted in a littering problem along the trails.  However, Bob Fuller stated that these cards should be given out only to those who have already expressed interest in volunteering.  Patty Lee Parmalee suggested that all trail volunteers be provided with handouts describing trail volunteer opportunities.  John Leigh commented that different recruitment methods work in different situations.


          Patty Lee Parmalee expressed the view that included among the duties of a maintainer is the recruitment of new volunteers.  Jonathan Marlin commented that camaraderie is the key to volunteering.  


          15.  Annual Planning Process.  Sona Mason reviewed the Trail Conference’s annual planning process, and she stated that requests for materials, tools, printing costs, training or other items should be submitted no later than September.  Patty Lee Parmalee questioned whether her committee has any such requests to make.  Ed Goodell stated that the planning process was developed to put in place a process to take information from the volunteers in the field and transmit it to the Board to decide on, as well as for the Board to convey its strategic opinions to the volunteers in the field.  Bob Fuller stated that he would like to have the volunteers think about their budgetary requests so that they may be considered by the West Hudson Regional Trails Council at its August meeting.


          Ed Goodell commented that a significant amount of Sona Mason’s time was charged to the LASF last year, since she worked on creating a greenway between Sterling Forest State Park and Storm King State Park.


          16.  Locations and Dates of Future Meetings.  Bob Fuller announced that the next meeting of the West Hudson Regional Trails Council will be held at the Trail Conference headquarters at the Darlington Schoolhouse in Mahwah on Tuesday, August 9th.  He stated that meetings for the remainder of the year are scheduled to be held at the Darlington Schoolhouse, but he noted that other locations would be considered if available.


          17.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:37 p.m.


      Respectfully submitted,


       Daniel D. Chazin